Delegate or Die


Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that doing the job
alone just doesn’t work. I should’ve listened to Three Dog Night.
They tried to teach me that “one is the loneliest number that
you’ll ever do,” but I just wouldn’t listen.

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Moses also learned the hard way about doing the job alone. In Exodus 18, we’re told about how Moses did
everything in ministry by himself, and it caused problems on the
job. It was tough on the people, Moses, and his family. Jethro,
Moses’ father-in-law, gave him wise advice and counsel. Simply
put…he told Moses to delegate or die.

That’s good advice for us children’s ministers, too! When you do
things that others can do, you keep from doing things that only you
can do. And when you do the things in ministry that only you can
do, that’s when you hear “Well done, good and faithful

I know what you’re thinking. My volunteers can’t teach a class
or do children’s ministry as well as I can. That may be true, but
there was a time in your life when you couldn’t minister as well as
you can now. Someone allowed you to get better by doing hands-on
ministry. And we must give our volunteers the same chance we were
given to learn by doing.

God put YOU in a position of leadership in
children’s ministry for a purpose. Let Larry Shallenberger help you
discover your personal leadership style so that you can maximize
your strengths.

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With these things in mind, take a look at 15 master delegation
tips that’ll help you develop your volunteers through action.

1. Identify what you need to be doing.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to delegate ministry to others.
Delegation isn’t finding someone who’s willing and then dumping
part of your ministry responsibilities on him. There are some
projects that are easier to delegate than others. There are other
projects that you should never delegate — and still others that if
you do delegate, proceed with caution.

I’d recommend that you cautiously delegate the handling of
difficult decisions to others. Jethro warned Moses of this very
thing in Exodus 18:21-22: “But select capable men from
all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate
dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands,
hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the
people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to
you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make
your load lighter, because they will share it with you.”

Also, you can’t delegate the responsibility of building
relationships with your key workers. This is a job you must do.
Vision setting, evaluation or fruit inspection, and the success of
your children’s ministry are responsibilities only you as the
leader should have.

2. Identify things others can do, and let
them do those things
. Once you delegate jobs, ensure that the
responsible people are properly trained and coached. Next, identify
areas where you could use a capable worker. Don’t just assign a
task; empower a person to do the task well.

Some of the responsibilities I’ve chosen to delegate are
teaching and care-giving responsibilities, such as hospital
visitation, some counseling, home visits, and follow-up. You can
also delegate some of the oversight of children’s ministry. Phone
calls and the returning of messages are projects that can be
delegated to others.

3. Qualify all workers. Jethro gave
Moses requirements for workers in Exodus 18:21: “But select capable men from all
the people.” A major rule of delegation is to qualify who you
delegate responsibility to. Are they capable and able? If not, then
help them become capable and able.

4. Define exactly what you want done.
Everyone needs a job description. Especially volunteers! Give them
checklists to show what you want them to do and to show you what
was done.

Remember to always do what’s best for the children and not only
what’s best for adults. Rotation doesn’t build volunteers through
action. In verse 22 of Exodus 18, the judges were to serve at
all times. This wasn’t a once-a-month job; it was an all-the-time

5. Train and teach those you recruit.
You must model to others how you want it done. Classes are good,
but hands-on training is better. Christians are the only people I
know who confuse the word “training” with verbal instruction.
Almost every secular job that offers training does so by verbal
communication in addition to hands-on training and mentoring. You
don’t have to be the only model. I use my master teachers and
coordinators to help me train and equip others. Everyone should be
helping in the training and equipping process.

6. Push authority down. It’s extremely
important that you always delegate authority along with
responsibility. One of the dumbest sayings I know is “The buck
stops here.” There are many places for the buck to stop when you
give authority to others. Those you delegate to can only carry out
the tasks you desire with proper authority.

7. Put your heart into the level of
leadership under you
. People can’t represent you well if they
don’t have your heart. And you can’t put your heart into your
volunteer leaders without making a commitment to spend time with
them. Take someone with you whenever you can. Be quick to pass on
what you know to someone else. Allow those around you to ask
questions. Establish excellent lines of communication. Take
advantage of every communication tool available. I use meetings,
memos, newsletters, faxes, and emails.

8. Establish accountability. Teach
your volunteers how authority works. Help them understand the chain
of command. I love flow charts; they’re the simplest way to show
others structure and authority. Weekly reports are a must to help
you follow up on what others are doing. Remember, people don’t do
what you expect; they do what you inspect!

9. Support and encourage those who help
. It’s imperative that you build a support structure around
your volunteers. This might sound wild, but the best way I know to
show others you believe in them is by releasing them to do the work
of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “It was he who gave
some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists,
and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for
works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

10. Dare to confront those who are doing it
. When you see things that need to be done differently,
gently confront people. Don’t wait for things to become a problem.
Be on the offense and deal with things as they come up. What if
volunteers quit? Why be negative? If they quit, they quit. But what
if they change and become super leaders?

11. Make corrections and changes when
Every service can be better than the previous one
if you make changes and corrections each week. I make a list each
Sunday and then spend my week correcting that list. The next week,
I get to make a new list.

12. Don’t let your volunteers get in a
. Don’t keep doing the same old stuff in ministry. Watch
out for complacency and familiarity. Keep volunteers excited by
doing new things. Each week I look for things I can suggest to my
volunteers: Hey, have you tried this? Keep things different.
Different is good!

13. Always set the pace; be the
Be the kind of person you’d like to work for. Dare to
lead no matter what. Give your volunteers an example to follow and
a model worth imitating.

14. Don’t fret about what you don’t
. Concentrate on what you have. So many children’s
ministers I know always talk about how many workers they don’t have
instead of thanking God for the workers they do have. Commit
yourself to help your volunteers grow into the next level as

Lead who’ll follow. If all you have to lead are kids, start with
the kids. It doesn’t matter how many workers you need; start where
you are. Jesus needed 12 disciples, but he didn’t recruit all 12 at
the same time. He recruited them in ones and twos. If you have a
few faithful teenagers, lead them. If you have only a few key
adults, lead them. When you pour yourself into improving the
abilities of those around you, God will give you more. You see,
when you do small things well, God will make you a ruler over more.
But the starting point is always right where you are.

15. As you experience success, don’t forget
about the things you did that caused you to gain success.

Don’t quit doing what has worked for you. My pastor, Willie George,
tells us, “Dance with the one who brought you to the dance.”

As your ministry grows, keep a closeness among the workers.
We’re a big church with a small-church closeness. Ask others about
things you’ve done in the past that they enjoyed or that they miss.
I now have people on my staff who were kids in my children’s
ministry. I love to ask them, “What were the things I did or
activities we had that stand out in your mind?” I’m finding that
things that’ve worked in the past will work again. Also I’ve
learned that the little things we do in ministry really count the
most. I try to encourage my workers to never abandon the things
they’re doing that are working.

• • •

Delegation is not an option for those who want to succeed in
ministry, but to succeed, you must take inventory of where you are.
Start small and go from there. I try to train my team one worker at
a time. Ask yourself and your volunteers, “What do I need to do
differently? What volunteers do you see potential in?” Commit to
coach volunteers and let them learn by doing.

Jim Wideman is a children’s pastor and popular speaker. To
learn more about Jim’s leadership tape club, check out

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